“We rubbed along alright”
Master of televisual adaptation Andrew Davies turned his hand to Angela Lambert’s novel A Rather English Marriage in 1998 and watching it back now, it seems to harken back to an even earlier age, one of uncomplicated classic quality with a resolutely unfashionable straight-forwardness that we simply don’t see that much at all these days. The tale is a simple one of two retired veterans who, after being widowed on the same day, are placed together by a well-meaning social worker who reckons the companionship will do them both a world of good.
They’re an odd couple though. Albert Finney’s Reggie was an air squadron leader and having married into money, is used to a wealthy life. By comparison, Tom Courtenay’s Roy was a mere NCO and became a milkman after the war so as they move into together, Reggie naturally assumes a dominant position with Roy slipping easily into the habit of calling him Sir as their relationship settles into something imbalanced. Ultimately, both men recognise the private pain they are hiding as long-held secrets come to light but it is the return of women to their lives that proves to be the most significant change.
Finney and Courtenay rub along beautifully together as their partnership subtly shifts from its initial state of polar opposites into something gradually more equal is just beautiful to watch and becomes infinitely moving in a gorgeous final scene which repurposes Glenn Miller’s ‘Moonlight Serenade’ to great effect. Paul Seed’s direction makes the most of their contrasting acting styles to closely examine the different ways in which we deal with grief and how that might change in later life, as circumstances throw us into unfamiliar situations we can’t easily get out of – making friends might never be as important as when you’re older…
Joanna Lumley is also good as the woman who comes into Reggie’s life albeit not necessarily with the best of intentions and a cracking supporting cast sees a whole host of familiar faces pop up, not least a youthful Joanna Scanlan, a haughty Lucy Robinson, a barely recognisable Rosamund Pike, and Adjoa Andoh’s compassionate social service worker. Best of all is a cockily assured John Light as the young Reggie but the whole thing is well worth the time as a classic piece of excellent drama.